The Offload: Wicklow RFC given development resources

Erasmus’ request for public hearing denied; players’ time-wasting reaching new heights

Last week this column highlighted the plight of the newly promoted Wicklow RFC in the Energia Women's All Ireland League in losing their first two matches of the campaign 63-0 (Old Belvedere) and 142-0 (Railway Union).

The purpose was to shine a light on the massive discrepancy in standards within the elite level of women’s club rugby in trying to expand the playing base and to express one or two qualms about putative physical and mental scars that might ensue for a club with a young team that shipped heavy defeats of that nature.

During the past week this column learned that senior staff in the IRFU Rugby Development department contacted Wicklow to offer support in a practical way, attending training sessions and meeting with club officials to identify additional coaching and development resources. This will be an ongoing support system rather than a once off venture.

What also emerged was a Wicklow club with a strong rugby model, good facilities, an excellent underage set-up and one geared to supporting and developing all players within Wicklow RFC. However, there is no immediate panacea and that remains a concern in the short term.


With Amy O'Neill and Tammy Breen away training with the Ireland rugby league squad, Vicky Elmes Kinlan absent with Ireland Sevens commitments and Ella Roberts injured, Wicklow suffered another heavy defeat, 63-0 to Blackrock College at Stradbrook.

Next week they host Malone at Ashtown Lane and hopefully manage their first points in a match against a club closer in standard than those they have faced to date. Ballincollig, the other newly promoted side under the coaching baton of former Irish international Fiona Hayes, made it two wins from three matches with a victory over Galwegians.

There is a new format for the Women’s AIL 2021-2022 tournament with the regular season reduced to nine matches with a top four round robin determining the order of the elite semi-finalists. In conjunction there will be a new round-robin conference for the remaining six teams to ensure more competitive games for developing clubs; the winner of which will receive the conference trophy.

Popcorn time for Rassie show

According to media reports in South Africa, Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby have requested that the World Rugby's independent misconduct hearing to rule on a video critique of referee Nic Berry's performance during the British & Irish Lions series be made open to the public to ensure transparency.

World Rugby confirmed that the hearing will take place over the weekend of October 30th/31st. Independent judicial panel chairman Christopher Quinlan QC will chair the panel alongside Nigel Hampton QC (New Zealand) and Judge Mike Mika (New Zealand).

Erasmus produced a video to highlight what he perceived to be a host of officiating discrepancies in the Springboks first test defeat to the Lions. According to South African weekly newspaper Rapport, SA Rugby has asked for an open disciplinary hearing, a request to which World Rugby responded with "hearings are never open to the public" when asked for comment on the matter.

Rassie Erasmus' lawyer, Frikkie Erasmus responded: "The allegations against Rassie are unfounded and the facts will be revealed during the hearing," he told Rapport. "It is therefore in the interest of justice to have a transparent hearing. There is no justification for any secrecy."

World Rugby stated in an official communiqué: "Following the provision of detailed written submissions and evidence from Mr Erasmus, SA Rugby and World Rugby, a request was received from SA Rugby and Mr Erasmus for an oral hearing, which has been granted.

“The hearing date, set in consultation with the parties, is the earliest possible date taking into account previous commitments of all parties, participants and the multiple time zones involved. The independent disciplinary committee will publish a full written decision following the completion of the entire proceedings.”

Still plenty of time to get the popcorn in.

Stoppages galore as game time goes up

No one disputes that rugby is a collision sport and immensely physical but the increasingly stop-start nature of matches definitely detracts from the spectacle. Games now take close to two hours to complete, featuring multiple three minute scrums and this allied to numerous others stoppages are frustrating for players and supporters alike.

New Zealand were unhappy with the number of breaks in play in a couple of recent Rugby Championship matches against South Africa where they felt that Springboks were content to periodically slow the game down by players seeking treatment. It is something to which they occasionally drew the attention of referee Matthew Carley in the most recent Test between the countries.

It was in evidence at the RDS for Leinster’s victory over Zebre in the United Rugby Championship. Scottish referee Sam Grove-White stopped the game on multiple occasions in the first 26-minutes; the number of injury stoppages was in double figures and continued for the majority of the afternoon. Harry Byrne’s hip injury was the only one that necessitated a player being replaced.

It wasn’t a surprise that the lion’s share of stoppages were down to Zebre players ‘taking a knee.’ They were doing the vast majority of tackling and defending and that attrition had a legacy. But they also needed a respite.

There is no way that any referee should be asked to ‘judge’ whether a player is genuinely injured or just buying his teammates time for a breather. It’s not a new phenomenon and has been going on since the year dot in the sport but with games taking longer and longer finding a way to cut back on the interruption would be desirable.

Word of mouth

"A lot of lads out there deserved their chance. There has been an incredible effort from pre-season (on). We have a lot of positives to take into Connacht." Munster captain Jack O'Donoghue following a brilliant away win for a young team.


31 - The number of points that young Ulster scrumhalf Neil Doak has scored in three matches this season or 192 minutes if you prefer.